The importance of mathematics

I ordered a new fridge freezer today.
But I could not order the one I really wanted because of the maths!
The room where the freezer will sit is 2020mm tall. The freezer was 2010mm tall. That looks a good fit - just 1cm at the top so no wasted space!  But the door to the room is lower. The freezer will have to be carried through on its side and then straightened up. As it is twisted into an upright position then it will become taller than the 1cm gap! In fact using the geometry that I remember from school  (the square of the hypotenuse equals the square of the other two sides) I was able to work out that the freezer would need a height of 2110 to clear the ceiling. 
I did the same sum on the other freezers that were on the website and found that one at 1750mm tall would only get to 1860mm high when rotated to stand upright.So I ordered that one. 
I really hope that I have got the sums correct - It could be an expensive mistake otherwise!!


How can I work in this heat. I feel continuously lethargic. The smallest thing becomes a great effort. My energy is sapped as if I am carrying a great weight about with me. Even moving my fingers across the keyboard is a chore. I dislike the way that you stick to things. I am perspiring and want to lie down like my dog under the shade of the tree and sleep.

Perhaps if I lived somewhere it was hot all the time I would cope. But this is the only day that I have felt this hot since last year. And who knows it may be cold and wet again next week - you never can tell at this latitude.

Enough - I think you get the message.

An ancient cure for stress.

St Augustine is believed to have coined the phrase "Solvitur Ambulando" which means "it is solved by walking". (Other ancient writers also have this phrase attributed to them.) A more idiomatic English translation might be “you’ll find the answer as you go.”

Whichever is the correct source of the phrase it has been quoted by Dorothy L Sayers, Thoreau, and Bruce Chatwin in their works.

When you feel stressed a walk is the best cure I know. Once you get outdoors in the open air, ideally amongst wild nature, then with the wind blowing around you and in your hair, your own concerns seen to shrink and get into proportion. Your mind clears and you see much better probably because of both the fresh air and the exercise.

We have dogs. They love to walk.  They have to go out every day rain or snow, wind or storm. They make me walk them even when I don't feel like it or would prefer to be huddled up beside the fire with a good book.

Setting out for a walk you can hold some question that is causing you concern in your mind. Not worrying about it but holding it there gently in your thoughts as you enjoy the physical aspects of taking a walk. Perhaps you want to do the same with something that you are worrying about. It is likely that when you return from the walk the stress will be reduced or gone and you will see more clearly.

When you walk in company you often chat about problems you are facing and often come up with solutions. Walking alone is essential for writers who often find it is a time that develops plots and ideas for his books. A walk can also be a cure for a writers block.  If you are not blessed as I am to live next to beautiful woods maybe when you walk you have to cross major road intersections. Instead instead of streams and distant mountain views you walk past apartment blocks, shops and factories but you can still lose yourself in the exercise. You are outside. You are taking in the perspective of the wider world. It is the walking that brings healing and up to a point it doesn't matter where you walk - though I know which I would find preferable.

Solvitur Ambulando


All human beings like being treated well. So often in our modern world people treat others with discourtesy, disrespect and downright rudeness. Being treated well gives you a real boost and makes you feel good.

Last week I made a long train trip and booked using a special internet offer code so I got a first class ticket at a bargain price. As a result the service I received was superb. 
I had never before experienced first class! In your seat you had complimentary drinks offered and complimentary food served all day. This is not the way to take a trip if you are on a diet! It makes you feel good to be pampered and treated well. The seats are wider than those in ordinary carriages and also recline. I have been on long train journeys which can be a nightmare where you spend the trip longing for the agony to be over.
The trade off we have to understand is that good service costs. If we feel virtuous about getting the best possible deal and paying the lowest possible price for everything then we cannot expect the overworked staff,  inevitably be on minimum wage, to offer the best customer service. Like all of life we get what we pay for. You cannot expect a stranger to pamper you for free!
I find it challenging to wonder if I always treat people I meet in the best way that I can? Especially when I am tired at the end of a long day I know that I am not as nice to others as I want them to be towards me. 

Language changes

Language changes constantly. It is a fluid, dynamic thing that never stays the same. 
In church many old hymns are still in regular use from 300 years or more ago. The one below by Isaac Watts, written in 1719, is a versification of psalm 41. It has for some reason been left out of most modern hymnals.  There has been a complete change in the understanding of the word "bowels" over the last 300 years! Apparently "bowels" was a word that at the time of Watts referred to deep feelings.

Blest is the man whose bowels move
And melt with pity to the poor;
Whose soul, by sympathising love,
Feels what his fellow saints endure.

His heart contrives for their relief
More good than his own hands can do;
He, in the time of general grief,
Shall find the Lord has bowels, too.

His soul shall live secure on earth,
With secret blessings on his head,
When drought, and pestilence and dearth
Around him multiply their dead.

Or if he languish on his couch,
God will pronounce his sins forgiv’n;
Will save him with a healing touch,
Or take his willing soul to Heav’n.


Research is the key to good writing. If you just rely on what is in your head unless you are Einstein you will quickly exhaust your range of experiences of life.

If you are writing an essay at college for your professor you would not think of writing random thoughts from your head without looking up what the range of opinions about the subject are. research for a novel takes a different form. You have to look at locations, and understand that in different parts of the world ordinary things happen in a different way. You have to think about injuries for example and if you are writing about someone who has a broken back - what will the likely disability be? How long will they have had to spend in recovery/physiotherapy before they can begin to rebuild their life.
The Internet gives us so much information available instantly at our place of writing. But it does not replace proper reference books. there is something about flicking through a reference book about for example the city you are writing about that can stimulate the creative process and suggest all sorts of different angles for where the story will go.
There is nothing worse than reading a book where the research has been patchy and things just do not work. If you know London and someone comes out of Buckingham palace and after running for five minutes enters the tower of London then you will likely laugh at the ignorance and lack of research of the author however enthralling the plot.

Do you procrastinate when you try to write?

Procrastination is very common for writers. Look at this chart - someone sent it to me on Facebook! 
It sums up the distractions and the need for discipline if you are ever going to succeed as a writer.

Chosing the right word...

There are many words you can use. Why choose the one that you do? Why do some words appeal and others seem a big turn off? 

When I started writing I used to keep a thesaurus at my side and would look up alternative words just for the sake of using big words that looked impressive. Looking back at some of that early prose, I am embarrassed by how false it sounds.  It doesn't look clever. It looks like a kid has been let loose with a dictionary and has tried to make ordinary prose sound extraordinary by adding little known and little used words.

How many words do you know?  Some research said that the average American high-school graduate knows approximately 45,000 words. Whereas a person with more education or who was widely read would certainly have a larger vocabulary than 60,000 words. Professor David Crystal, known chiefly for his research in English language studies believes  "Most people know about 50,000 words easily. A reasonably educated person about 75,000 and a really cool, smart person more. An ordinary person, one who has not been to university say, would know about 35,000 quite easily." 

So the answer is to use your common sense when choosing which word to use. Write clearly  to show what you mean and not to show the size of your vocabulary.  Using the right word can mean using a short and simple one. 

Editing your manuscript

Editing is a very important part of the writing process.    You have sweated blood in getting the inspiration from your imagination down but it may be raw and clunky. What it needs is a good polish. I think of editing as polishing you precious creation.

You may have to cut out some words and you will remember the hours you spent crafting them. It will fell bad - it will hurt to have to cut hem but that is necessary. Once you have an overview and see the while you can cut the bits that don't fit.

Editing is more than doing a spell check and grammar check. Your computer can help with this but don't always believe the suggestions it makes for grammar! Your prose is more than the suggestions of an auto grammar checking program!

Do you over use certain words - we all do. Use a computer search function and count . You may be surprised!

Is anything clunky - do you stumble over it when you try to read it out loud. If you do that sentence needs re- writing!

Does the story make sense in a chronological way? Are there things that are impossible? I once ended one chapter with a person in a certain place and began the next chapter the same day with the same person somewhere else. It was an impossible journey in the timescale I had written but I had not noticed!

Have I used excess words? - sometimes it it better to say it with less than more. Purple prose - those over flowery descriptions do not often have a place in contemporary fiction.

Are there loose ends? Did you introduce a character early on who has disappeared as the story progressed? They can probably be deleted because to leave them in will cause confusion.

Finally read through thinking about consistency. Do all your characters act in character all the way through? Do they ever slip up and speak in a tone or use vocabulary that would be out of character. Small slips can destroy credibility of characterisation!

You can get your copy of my novel  "Capcir Spring"by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK

Keyboard or paper?

How to actually physically write can be a dilemma for writers today. Should you work directly onto a computer keyboard and see your text grow in your chosen font on the screen in front of your eyes. Or should you fill a notebook with a handwritten script that flows directly and physically from the motion of your hands. Or should you wear a headset and dictate the words into a microphone and use voice recognition software to make the words appear instantly on the screen. 
Successful authors swear by all these different methods of writing and many others besides. It is really up to you to find what suits you. I have tried them all. And to an extent they all work. It is often a matter of convenience as to which you use. If you like to write in the woods then carrying a notebook will be a lot easier than even the lightest laptop.  If you like sitting in an armchair close to the fire a laptop may be better than a desktop computer. If you want to dictate your masterpiece you may work faster but you may find the technology very frustrating in that it doesn't always work as well as it is supposed to! (At least that is my experience.)
The advice is try. If you really want to write you will write and write and if you run out of paper you will scribble on the back of cardboard cartons. Ultimately what matters is getting your thoughts down onto a medium where you can come back to them and edit them and make them into a real piece of writing. Any writing that hasn't been edited will be raw and unpolished. It should never be considered a finished product. I will write about editing another time.

Reviewing a book

My professor at university told me a simple formula for writing a book review and it works almost every time. I say "almost every time" because I like to vary everything now and then just because it suits.

The formula is this. As you read the book keep the following three questions in your mind.
  1. What genre is it?  if non fiction what specific category/subject.(Non fiction catagories are very specific)  If fiction is it crime, romance, thriller, fantasy etc.
  2. What does it say? Is the story a good one ? Are the characters believable? Are the arguments clear? Is there a progression from the beginning to the end? Is any of this new or has it been published elsewhere and is being recycled?
  3. Is it any good? This is where you move from the objective assessment to the subjective.. and this is the most difficult to do well. Your answer to this question should be based from your answer to question two. Start with the style, spelling and grammar with an expectation that for a published book this should be faultless. Then assess what impression it leaves tyou with.
So that is my technique. I find this structure very helpful.


If you are a writer you always carry a notebook.

You never know what you will see or what great inspired thought will come into your head and will be forgotten by the time you are able to get to pen and paper.

Technology allows alternatives. I can make notes on my phone. But this lacks the immediacy and ease of scribbling a few words in a notebook. You can supplement these words with a small sketch or diagram that only you will understand. You do not need to do great art to remind you of how a scene was set out or the layout of a room.  I do not want to carry a huge heavy laptop around with me nor even a tablet and really a phone is too small to write any mre than a few sentances without getting an ache in your thimbs.
So notebooks and pencils or pens in the pocket win every time for me.

How I read

As a writer it is essential that you read the work of other people. It is good to read classics and modern masters to be inspired: to see how writing should be executed.
But it is also good to read books by independent authors who have often self published. These books are often far from perfect. 
It is good to read stuff like this because it makes you analyse - 
  • why is this dialogue not working?
  • why is she using the passive voice?
  • the plot didn't make sense at that point? What would I have done instead?
  • why did that character not came alive?
  • why does that development in the plot seem completely unbelievable?
  • has she succeeded in creating locations that I can relate to? 
  • how would I have handled the descriptive passages differently?
Reading second rate novels thus becomes an aid to writing by learning from other peoples mistakes. You can go on from here and write book reviews in which you condense these thoughts into review articles.

Capcir spring by Jean de Beurre on Amazon Kindle

Capcir Spring is a romantic adventure novel set in the French Pyrenees. It is now available as a download from Amazon for the Kindle.

Mary believed that she had left her past behind her as she started exploring Cathar ruins in the French Pyreneen mountains to further her academic career. She has problems sleeping: her nightmares not only relive the ruthless persecution of local people by the Inquisition but are also mixed up with flashbacks to more recent traumatic events in her life. When Mary discovers a plan to destroy the heritage site that she has discovered, she joins forces with John to protect the mountains. 

Unknown to her John too is trying to escape from a painful past in the quiet, out of season French ski resort of Les Angles. In the conservation battle they join forces with an eccentric group of new age travellers. Both Mary and John have to overcome their personal demons and in doing so they each rediscover what is really important in their lives.

In this novel of about 70,000 words, set in contemporary France, Jean de Beurre brings together insights from psychology, history and theology in a romantic adventure.

You can get your copy by
clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK

Where do you write?

Everyone writes in different places. Some of us are lucky enough to have a desk in a spare room at home where we can keep our computer and the books and pictures we are currently using as reference. Some make do with the kitchen table when it is not needed for family meals. JK Rowling wrote much of Harry Potter in a coffee shop. Roald Dahl had a shed in his garden in which he created his children's fantasy.

Today I was on a train to Edinburgh and I had my laptop with me and found it easy to write in the time that would otherwise have been spent glancing through the Metro (free newspaper) or staring out of the window.

For some people writing is a state of mind that you can do anywhere. 

But I guess that everyone interested in writing always carries a notebook around with them for you never know when you will; get a brilliant idea that you will otherwise forget by the time you get home!

The bottom line is it doesn't matter where you do it - if you want to be a writer don't procrastinate - just do it!

What is the best time to write?

When do you write? Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you have a day job and have to fit your writing in around your hours at the office or factory?

We are all different. I can only tell you what I do.

I find I am brighter and more creative in the daytime so I speed write new stuff during the day, usually for blocks of an hour at a time.

In the evenings I am more tired and so not given to original thought. But this I find is the best time for revising previously written texts.

Unfortunately I have yet to find a comfortable way of using my laptop when lying in bed!

No corners!

I had lunch a few days ago with a lovely couple who had worked as medical doctors in Zambia.

I learnt an interesting fact from them

In the native language of the Zambian people there was no word for a corner. The word "corner" just didn't exist!  They thought in terms of natural curves and flows. They lived in round huts and had no corners in anything!

They had to adapt their language after western society introduced straight lines and boxes, cubes and corners into their world. So their language adopted the English word "corner" into it.

It must be strange living in a world with no corners. Where shapes are formed naturally and are smoothed by time to be best suited for their purpose.

It must be stranger still to not have the philosophical concept of hiding in your own corner or defending your corner. What would it be like if you could not be backed into a corner with the associated connotations of foul play? Supposing you could not corner someone or you could not hide in a corner!

I think there would be definite advantages to a world without corners!

Planning vs spontenaity

When writing a novel how much should you plan out before you start to write in clear prose? On the other hand, how much should you be open to spontaneity taking over and creating something magical as you go along.

I found an early plan for the novel I am working on at present yesterday. As I read it I was amazed at how much it had changed since I wrote that early synopsis. The characters were mostly the same. Some people who I had imagined would be playing a leading role now only made fleeting appearances or had disappeared all together. There were also new characters who had never been thought of at that initial stage.

The plan was still basically the same - but it was there as an overall shape or sense of direction and the detail had emerged in the writing. And the details had sometimes driven the overall trajectory to change in often subtle ways and the overall shape had often directed and inspired how the details would emerge.

Creativity is a wonderful and somewhat mysterious process. When it works well is absolutely amazing. When it doesn't you can find yourself staring at a blank computer screen for long periods of time wondering which key to hit next. At times liken that I write on my blog just to keep my fingers warm. Hmmm - you can see what I am doing now!